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Dr. Gregory Asner shows Pope Francis a map on biodiversity at a papal audience on Thursday Dr. Gregory Asner shows Pope Francis a map on biodiversity at a papal audience on Thursday  (@VaticanMedia)

Laudato si’: ‘Science offers faith tools amid climate crisis’

As Pope Francis meets with the members of the Laudato si’ Movement, climate scientist Gregory Asner explains that science can offer tools to Catholic faithful in the effort to research and combat climate change.

By Devin Watkins

Laudato si’ speaks to people in ways that a scientist cannot. Pope Francis really gives us a gift to communicate where science plays into integral ecology, as part of a larger responsibility.”

That remark sums up for one scientist the Pope’s contribution to promoting integral ecology among people of all religions.

According to Gregory Asner, a US-born climate and biodiversity scientist, faith and science can work together on the issue of climate change and are not opposed, as seen in the Pope’s 2015 encyclical.

Mr. Asner spoke to Jean-Charles Putzolu on the sidelines of a papal audience in the Vatican on Thursday with the Laudato si’ Movement, formerly known as the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Faith and science work together

“Hearing Pope Francis, the Church, and Laudato si’, I see an understanding that [the issue of climate change and biodiversity] is critical,” said Mr. Asner. “We have to play a role in improving our conditions across the planet for people and for nature.”

Science and faith, he added, can “absolutely” work together to achieve that goal.

In his travels to many of the world’s nations, Mr. Asner noted that he often encounters the idea that science and faith are opposed to one another.

He said his upbringing showed him that the two are both important, but for different reasons.

“Faith gives us compass, understanding, and much more than science will ever give us,” said Mr. Asner. “But science gives us something unique: tools.”

The tools offered by science, he added, can help us move from points A to B and improve our world.

Science offers tools

Referring to his own country of the United States, Mr. Asner said he often hears people almost raising climate change to the level of belief, saying “I don’t believe in climate change.”

His response is that climate change is not a belief but a scientific measurement using tools.

“It difficult for people to realize that science is not in combat with belief; it’s a utility, a tool, a way to navigate forward,” he said, offering the example of turning on a car’s headlights while driving at night. “They just show me where to go.”

Laudato si’ bridges the gap

The encyclical Laudato si’, according to Mr. Asner, bridges the gap between faith and science, calling it “such a unique perspective.”

The Pope’s mentality, he said, is that the two work together. “Belief—whichever belief system you associate with—cannot ignore the fact that science is speaking loudly, telling us that we have to change our habits, the way we are consuming the earth’s resources, and change the stress we are putting on ecosystems, biodiversity, and the climate.”

He said humanity must “take responsibility for what we’ve been given—this earth—and take care of it.”

Listen to the full interview
26 August 2021, 15:57